Guided riding, eco pods, excellent regional food and drink - that's the Blue Derby Pods Ride.
Words: Colin Levitch Photos: Nick Waygood, Colin Levitch
From October 26 2020, Tasmania opened up their borders to select Australian states and New Zealand. Keep up to date with who can visit, and what the procedures are via this link.
Derby is a magical place nestled in the North Eastern end to Tasmania, and in only a short few years has gone from a modern day ghost town to a buzzing mountain bike destination. It’s one of those places, if you haven’t been there already, you should be planning to go. Now, the former mining town has two bike shops, a pizzeria, two pubs, a bakery, a few cafes and even an outdoor beer garden all along the main drag. With heaps of accommodation and AirBNBs popping up Derby is becoming a one stop shop mountain bike destination.
But, hidden in the trees is something a bit different which offers to the best of our knowledge a one of a kind mountain biking experience. Cleverly concealed inside the Blue Derby Trail Network are the Blue Derby Pods, the home of the Blue Derby Pods Ride. When we say inside the trail network we mean you ride right past it on a very popular trail which we won’t name, but you won’t see it unless you’re looking for it.
“There is no line of slight anywhere in the network, even though we are literally in the middle,” says Steve Howell, half of the husband and wife team that run the Blue Derby Pods Ride.
We’ve all stayed in the dorm style accommodation, AirBNBs and maybe even received a side eye from hotel staff as you track mud through their lobby. It’s also a safe bet you’ve consumed mass amounts of pasta cooked in a communal kitchen, or sampled the local burger joint night after night — that’s not what the Blue Derby Pods Ride is about.
What is on offer insteat is not only luxury accommodation, but also gourmet food with world class trails literally on their doorstep — you are sleeping inside the trail network afterall. Even better, they send you out with a guide who will show you the creme de la creme of the Blue Derby singletrack.
“We cater from top to bottom, we’ve had people who are trying mountain biking for the first time, and then the last few trips we did have a couple of riders who are ridiculously skilled — they showed up with full face helmets and were hitting all the doubles on Air-Ya-Garn,” says Tara Howell, the other half of the husband and wife couple behind the Pods.
Beyond the guides who can help beginner and intermediate riders up skill, and show advanced riders the fast line down Shearpin and Detonate, during your time at the Pods you have your own private wooden pod. They almost appear as if they are hovering in the bush, and beyond the wooden paths and a short section of singletrack the landscape around the property is largely untouched — it’s a bit like extreme glamping. We have been lucky enough to spend some time at the pods and the relaxation is immediate as you walk over the threshold of your pod.
Get some more details on the Blue Derby Pods Ride HERE
But the Blue Derby Pods Ride isn't about isolation, inside the communal area there are comfy couches, and beanbags to relax around the fire. As you walk through the door there you’re greeted with a charcuterie board and a fridge full of local beers and wines. And the food, oh my god the food; beyond just being delectable the menu is designed to keep you going after a hard day on the trails.
“We sat down with a chef name Daniel Alps really early on — because we both love food — to design the menu for how we felt it will work for our energy as well as really great for our guides to be able to cook and then also really tasty, Tara says. “We designed it with him and then used a few local suppliers to help us bring it all together.”
Blue Derby Pods Ride offers a three and four day experience — both have two days of riding in Derby and a day at the Blue Tier built in, with the new four day experience adding in the new 42km St Helens Bay of Fires Trail ride on the final day. This is an all in experience, the Pods aren't a stand alone accommodation option.
“People will get up early and we take them to up to the Blue Tier, and then we meet them at the end with a private sea food lunch down on the orange rocks on Swimcart Beach — it’s a pretty cool way to finsh,” says Tara.
The team from Blue Derby Pods Ride collect you from the Launceston airport and whisk you through the Tasmanian countryside to the Pods.
The Pods experience is fully catered meaning all you need to do is bring yourself, enough clothes and riding gear to last three or four days and your bike. If you’re not keen on wrestling a bike bag through the airport, the Pods maintain a feet of Specialized Stumpjumpers which are available for hire.
Bring warm clothes. This is Tasmania after all, and the weather is about as predictable as Glen Maxwell in the batting crease.
BEST TIME OF YEAR
Winter in Tasmania is wet and cold, but summer can also be wet and cold. We were in Derby in late October, and we experiences temperatures ranging from the low teens up to a scorching 33-degrees. Derby rides well in the dry and the wet, but we’d say the best time of year to visit is between September and March.
The three and four day experiences at the Blue Derby Pod Rides cost $1750 and $2850 respectively. If these prices make you go a bit light headed keep in mind that the cost includes three meals every day, guiding, airport transfers, shuttles, apres drinks, and some of the most luxurious and unique accommodation.
LOCAL BIKE SHOPS
In Derby there are two bike shops, both are located on the main drag right next to one another. Evolution is Trek dealer, while Vertigo is socks Specialized. Both have hire bikes available, plenty of spares and a full service workshop. But, if your bike requires boutique hard to find parts, best to bring extras with you.